Some people are always in our memory. Bob is such a person. I have not talked to him in over 40 years, but his simple thoughts on democracy often come to mind.
Bob was our fraternity advisor when I was president. He was 8 to10 years older than me and didn’t look much like a fraternity man. But he had a more important gift, wisdom.
His guidance was simple:
Democracy is a fragile thing. It’s always on the brink of disappearing into an abyss of misinformation and ignorance. It requires an educated electorate. As President you need to make it possible for those you lead to make well informed decisions. Sometimes their decision will be right and sometimes wrong, but voters in a democracy have to be able to make mistakes. You have to be willing to let them.
You must provide them with all the facts even if the facts don’t support your position. You make sure they know the consequences of their vote. But in the end, you must accept their decision, support it, and carry it out, unless of course, it is immoral or illegal.
The voter cannot be held responsible for bad decisions if their decisions are based on inadequate facts or misinformation. In that case, you’re responsible.
Some leaders do not trust voters so they mislead and fool them. Unfortunately, voters sometimes like to be fooled. It takes the responsibility off their shoulders. It allows them to blame the leader and not themselves. You can’t let that happen. It threatens democracy.
You must keep the voters informed. Let them know the consequences. Let them vote. Give them credit for the success or failure of their vote. Let them reexamine the issue in light of their decisions and vote again if necessary. If you do these things, you will succeed as a leader.
I’ve never forgotten Bob’s words and it is this I believe.
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